Award Winning Ottawa Event Planning

A Most Niagara Warm Welcome

Back in late January, Angie and I were treated to an incredible 3 days in Niagara at a FAM event hosted
by Niagara Falls Business Events. You’re probably asking yourself “What is a FAM event?” A FAM event is
a Familiarization Event or Trip often organized and hosted by a Tourism group showcasing the
restaurants, venues, sights and sounds of their city, region, or destination. This particular FAM was
called Warm Up in Niagara and was showcasing the Niagara region in January – and though it is a frosty
month wherein the Falls have been known to freeze solid when the temperature dips low enough, there
is plenty to see and do at local parks, wineries, attractions, and there is no shortage of delicious food to
keep the pickiest of business clients pleasantly satisfied.

As it was my first time at a FAM I had no idea what to expect, other than assuming that we would have a
few jam-packed days filled with great food, award winning wine and incredible hospitality. Suffice it to
say, I would not be disappointed. From check in on Thursday afternoon, until the moment we hopped in
the car to head back to Ottawa; Niagara Falls Business Events kept us going with a fantastic mix of
learning, fun and food!

The weekend kicked off with dinner at Morton’s Grille Niagara Falls, conveniently located inside the
Marriott Fallsview Niagara Falls Hotel – our home away from home for the weekend. With incredible
views of the illuminated falls directly out the wall to wall windows, Morton’s Grille offered the ideal
meet and greet – and the conversation was flowing between strangers turned friends over family style
appetizers, delectable entrees, and a dessert trio that set the stage for a weekend of indulgence.

Day 2 started bright and early with breakfast at The Flour Mill Scratch Restaurant at the historic Old
Stone Inn Boutique Hotel and Event Space. A quick magic show with a mentalist entertained us before
we made our way to the artistic buffet filled with candied bacon trees, homemade sweet and savoury
scones, avocado toast, fresh fruit, and yogurt parfaits just to name a few of the delicious options, all
served alongside fresh French pressed coffee, tea and a choice of orange or grapefruit juice. A tour of
the meeting rooms, a variety of hotel rooms, and the cozy lounge filled with novelty games finished our
incredible first stop at The Old Stone Inn.

Now we were ready for anything, including an exciting stop that began with a drive into the loading dock
at the Scotiabank Convention Centre with a warm welcome that led us into a demonstration that
included an aerial performance to highlight how many different ways you could use the 82, 000 square
feet of space. In the next hall was a private trade show where we would meet a variety of vendors, and
representatives from venues and services, all the while being entertained with a figure skating demo,
and fed homemade salted caramel doughnuts and delicious chai lattes.

Our exciting trip to Clifton Hill began with a Zombie Attack at the 6D Theatre – an interactive moving
theatre that got everyone’s blood pumping before we took a ride 175 feet in the air, on the Niagara Falls
Skywheel – did you know that it can accommodate 300 riders every 15 minutes? We were treated to
incredible views of Niagara Falls from the warmth and comfort of a gondola.

If you can believe it, it was only just time for lunch – talk about a jam-packed day! It was also our first
trip to a winery for the weekend. Ravine Vineyards has an incredible 150 year family history in and
around the village of St. Davids, and is absolutely worth the trip just to hear the story told while you
taste their wine. We enjoyed our lunch in their wine cellar that accommodates 60 people. For bigger
groups there is space for 250 upstairs, and soon they will also have an event space that holds 500!

Some trivia, followed by building a succulent garden, while learning about everything that Niagara Parks
has to offer, alongside views of the Niagara Whirlpool just outside the window, was followed by snacks
and flights at the Niagara Brewing Company. Their Honeymoon Peach Radler was the favourite at my
table – a light peach take on a classic radler. A quick tour of the Doubletree found more snacks, and a
choice of local craft cider, or hot apple cider while we toured their event space and meeting rooms.

And finally – the event the entire day had been leading up to – we returned to Scotiabank Convention
Centre Niagara. This time we entered from the front where the eye catching Prismatica Art Installation
was being featured. This modern convention centre facility features plenty of meeting rooms, breakout
rooms, a theatre that converts between flat or incline (with a 1000 person capacity), and a ballroom that
can be sectioned into up to 5 rooms.

We were greeted at the SCCN with sparkling wine to enjoy on our tour, and the tour finished in front of
a beautifully set table where we were encouraged to find our seat and settle in for a 5-course dinner
prepared by Executive Chef James Price, and paired with a selection of wines from Peller Estate Winery.
The food was expertly prepared, and each course was even more decadent than the last finishing off
with a Hot Chocolate Dessert station featuring homemade marshmallows, and macaroons while we were
entertained by a piano player. Sufficiently stuffed we headed back to the hotel to get ready for Day 2!

It’s an interesting dynamic to put a group of event planners together for 3 days. So many creative
personalities meant that there was plenty of conversation flowing around every table we found
ourselves sitting, and there was never a moment that we fell behind schedule.

We began day 2 at the Four Points Sheridan with unbelievably fluffy pancakes in their IHOP, followed by
a site tour of their meeting space, dinner restaurant with a Yuk Yuk’s comedy club, breakout rooms,
large board room, and a 2 storey arcade-zone lounge. The hidden gem of this location, though, is the
Ruth Chris Steakhouse with its private, curtained booths and a large dinner room that can be rented out
for events.

Off to another winery – this time Chateau des Charmes in Niagara on the Lake. This winery is housed in
an impressive stone building that was built in 1994 and is surrounded by 250 acres of grapevines. We
were once again greeted with a glass of sparkling wine before being regaled with the history of the Bosc
family. Another one that is worth the trip to hear for yourself is how Mr. Bosc brought grapes from France
to Canada in the 1970’s and changed wine making in the Niagara region. Our tour through the winery
was focused on ice wine, as it was the tail end of the Niagara Ice Wine Festival – we learned the
difference in making wine and ice wine as we walked through the Fermenting Cellar, the Press Room,
Barrel Cellar and back to the Tasting Area where we tasted the final results.

The tastings were followed by trip outside to the bonfire where we were treated to a 2017 Vidal Ice
Wine and S’mores made with wine-drenched marshmallows – a real treat, though a bit tricky to make as
the wine made the marshmallows melt faster than everyone was expecting.

It was almost lunch time again as we headed to Fallsview Resort where we began with another delicious
meal, and fantastic conversation. Lunch was followed by a site tour of the Galleria. The RS Lounge is a
fabulous event space with a cozy patio. Indoors it features beautiful bubble glass fixtures, and plenty of
booths and table options for a 275 guest capacity. Fallsview Resort offers plenty of Banquet Hall space,
and each Ballroom can be partitioned to accommodate many types of events.

Our final stop on this whirlwind of a weekend was at Niagara Falls Helicopter Tours, where I was a bit
unsure about riding in the helicopter as I’m afraid of heights, but Angie was beyond excited for the
chance. The weather was starting to get bad, and although not all of the groups were able to go on a
helicopter ride, Angie was lucky enough to go and had a blast seeing Niagara Falls from a completely
new angle!

After a weekend of food, fun, incredible sights, and even better company I am happy to say that my first
FAM experience was one that I will be hard pressed to forget. It was also my first time seeing Niagara in
the winter, and while I didn’t get to see the Falls frozen solid, I did have a unique opportunity to see a
different side of a beloved Ontario destination – and I will be recommending many of the venues we
visited to everyone. Delicious food, incredible local wines, warm hospitality, and enough event space to
accommodate all types of groups and activities – make Niagara the perfect year-round destination!

Please allow me a moment to introduce myself. My name is Julia O'Grady and I am the heart and soul behind ITM. I started this company in October 2010 to help fulfill my dream of making people's lives just a little better, one special moment at a time. I am passionate about special moments and thrive on planning events. I love everything about it. I love the organizing, the problem solving, coming up with original ideas and adding a little bit of the unexpected into everything I do.

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